This is how it starts: one minute you’re stumbling drunk out of night clubs, falling asleep during lectures and spending pointless Thursday nights with friends, just swiping mindlessly on Tinder – oh sometimes there is studying, sometimes. Then three years later University shoves a degree into your hand, turns you completely around, points you into the direction of the ‘real’ world and then kicks you up the backside, sending you stumbling towards it. And before you can even think about turning around, the gates are slammed shut behind you. Like a dear caught in the headlights, all you can do now is stand in crippling fear at the endless sea of uncertainty and chaos you now have to wade through. No more lessons, no life jackets and certainly no option of turning around and crawling back onto the shore of blissful freshers. From now on, whether you sink or swim, it is completely up to you – oh and I forgot to mention you have 50k uni debt strapped to your back, so try not to drown. So yeah, welcome to adulthood, it might be a bumpy ride.
A midlife crisis? Ha! Don’t make me laugh. Do you want to know what a real crisis is? Try being between 21-25 and being ambushed everywhere you turn by society as it tries to shove endless expectation down your throat, until you can do nothing but gag on all the debilitating possibilities. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose your soulmate. Choose your future. Choose the rest of your life – is the constant banshee scream ringing in the ears of young adults across the country, as I write these words. That’s why I always laugh when people talk about a midlife crisis, as if it’s this big scary thing – trust me it really isn’t. Let’s be honest, all a midlife crisis really amounts to is a shiny new car, some new ‘young people’ clothes and possibly even an affair with the next door neighbour. A quarter life crisis on the other hand – that’s real problems, even Hollywood couldn’t make a horror films as scary as that.
But, what happens when you’re in the grips of the quarter life crisis? Nothing much really, it’s like a casual stroll in the park – well, until the clouds over head slowly blacken, swell up and then drench you in a deluge of confusion, self-doubt and the crippling fear of not knowing what to do next. The world can be a scary place when you’re looking at from the bottom of a mountain. One minute you’re the biggest fish in the pond, the next you’re barely a drop in the ocean. That’s why it’s so daunting making the transition from adolescence to a credit card holding, mortgage paying, 9 to 5 working, full blown adult. And unlike our grandparents who had their entire lives mapped out from the day they were born: school, marry, have children and then die, our generation has been both cursed and blessed with endless possibility. Coupled with the fact that you’re still not completely sure who you are in the inside and what you want out of life, it can all seem too overwhelming.
Oh and don’t get me started on the internet. Social media has made a crisis of identity even more acute for millennials, now it’s practically impossible not to scroll through feeds and not instantly succumb to self-loathing and depression, as you’re bombarded daily with other people’s successes and how much better their lives are than yours. Not to mention that modern society is obsessed with youth and achieving success as quickly as possible, leading you to constantly compare yourself to strangers or friends achieving more, quicker and younger than you. “Malala Yousafzai received a Nobel Prize at 17, Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar by 22, Emilia Cline signed a three book deal by 25 – Jesus. What am I doing with my life!?”
So when we know we’re in a quarter life crisis, what do you do? Instantly you panic and then you panic some more. And when you’re all panicked out, finally two things go through your mind: first you think about doing a masters in some vein hope of recapturing your glorious university days and more importantly, avoiding the real world for just one more year. However, the potential reality of being saddled with even more debt, quickly dashes that dream… Secondly, you think about working some dead end job in the hopes that within 6 months you’ve made enough money to pack your bags and go ‘find yourself’ in South-East Asia, away from the stress of the west. You decide to follow the latter thought. But it never leads to riding elephants in India and shaving your head in Tibet, because before you know it you’re trapped in the seduction of the easy pay check and annoyingly your parents have suddenly decided to start charging you rent.
Just like the midlife crisis, ultimately there is no specific remedy or fairy godmother to magic it away, no quick fix. Instead it takes the realisation over time that it’s okay not to have all the answers from the day you leave university, and the more time taken to know what you want out of life, instead of leaping into things your heart really isn’t set on just to avoid looking like a failure, the sooner the right path for you reveals itself. It is also vital that you acknowledge the achievements you have worked hard for over the years and not torture yourself with things you can’t control. But the really important thing to remember about a quarter life crisis, is that it’s a transition period and it should not be seen as the end of something, rather the beginning of something really special – real life, your life.